Mark Stephen Experiential Agency

Why the Mark Stephen Experiential Agency Tapped PureWeb to Run Its Virtual Marketplace

Providing a virtual component to Essence Communications’s dynamic New Orleans street festival required the help of the leading 3D streaming experience provider.

6,051

Launches of the experience

25,939

Minutes streamed by virtual attendees

3.5

Average minutes of user retention

The challenge

Essence Communications had big plans for the summer of 2022. The media platform, which is dedicated to connecting with Black women through storytelling and immersive content, wanted to go virtual. Already well-known for its magazine and its various festivals, Essence had a huge audience of online readers and followers — but had yet to explore the virtual arena.

To get started, Essence reached out to a familiar partner in the Mark Stephen Experiential Agency. They wanted to use Mark Stephen’s event design and management expertise to help them create a virtual marketplace that would run in tandem with its Essence Festival in New Orleans and its 500,000 or so attendees. The goal was twofold: increase sponsorship revenue and showcase 25 Black-owned brands alongside industry titans such as Coca-Cola, Ford, and Target. 

Of course, getting the virtual experience developed was only half the challenge. The other half was finding a platform that could seamlessly deliver an immersive experience that recreated the joyous cacophony and vibrant colours of the actual festival. And with a team spread out worldwide, Mark Stephen needed to be confident that file sharing and communication would be quick and trustworthy.

It was the exact kind of 3D streaming experience PureWeb was built to deploy.
“We chose to use Pureweb for a variety of reasons, including customer service and server capability. The customer service team is great — we have no problem with any questions or changes that occur as they are dealt with quickly and effectively. The scalability of Pureweb servers allows it to confidently deploy experiences anywhere on most devices across the world.”

— Harry Butters, Director of Design & Digital, Mark Stephen Experiential Agency

The solution

Different iterations of layouts were used before landing on the ideal user experience. The priorities were to simplify navigation to maximize accessibility to the event and ensure that brands had exposure from every angle. Ironically, what they found best allowed for an authentic recreation of a city square was a circular shape. “(Using the circle) meant that no matter the age of the user, they were able to easily navigate the world and enjoy the experience, “ said Butters.

By employing a combination of Unreal Engine, Cinema 4D, Blender, and PureWeb, Mark Stephen was able to quickly provide Essence with a prototype of the experience. Given the demand for attention to detail, some technological hiccups were inevitable during the construction phase. Being able to jump on call, discuss the issue, and efficiently ideate and implement solutions were integral contributions by PureWeb that allowed the Mark Stephen Experiential Agency to provide a true ROI for Essence.

The impact

For one month, visitors around the world could access a full festival experience virtually, featuring shopping, a photobooth, digital programming — and could even enjoy a parade of Mississippi river boats while listening to a Coca Cola-curated playlist. The experience was launched 6,051 times and 25,939 minutes were streamed, with PureWeb on standby to resolve any disruptions.

“We were looking to push the boundaries wherever we could to break a deeper immersive audience experience — from accessibility, realism, shopping, and entertainment within the experience,” said Butters, reflecting on the event. “PureWeb allowed us to facilitate our vision through scalability and deployment quality across the world, and have been good team players.” 

The success of the experience convinced Essence to make the virtual festival an annual event. It also birthed an e-commerce system they could use beyond the virtual marketplace. And PureWeb’s expert deployment made sure the Mark Stephen Experiential Agency and Essence had minimal difficulty in virtually complementing a rowdy event in the Big Easy.

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